The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

I love the fact that I’m now living in a city where public art is the norm. I often pass by sculptures and murals here in Seattle, and they never fail to make me smile. It’s always a pleasure to have a bit of beauty and humor or a dash of whimsy injected into one’s day. I love having my thoughts provoked and my perspectives challenged. And some of these sculptures kind of feel like a part of my family now.

I used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, where public art was rather thin on the ground. It was often viewed as too controversial, or not in keeping with family values. (Though I wonder if their statue of Andrew Jackson astride a stallion still stands? I bet it does.)

Some artists in Jacksonville have been known to go rogue, I think, out of sheer frustration. They’d paint any flat surface they could find. Sadly, they always seemed to be quickly shut down and/or painted over.

Allowing art in one’s city takes a certain level of political courage. (And I’m not talking about historical monuments and statues, here. That’s another debate entirely.) There will always be people who don’t like a particular piece, or they will misinterpret it. It is easier to offend than to delight or inspire, it seems. It’s a confident city council that allows self-deprecation and social commentary to be out in the open, for all to see. It’s a brave mayor that doesn’t see creativity as a threat.

I think one of the many factors one should consider when deciding where to live is the amount of public art in the city in question. That will tell you much about the quality of life that you will experience in that community. It will tell you a great deal about the maturity and emotional health of the municipality as well. These are considerations you should never overlook. The ability to express oneself is the hallmark of civilization.


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!

4 thoughts on “Public Art as a Yardstick

  1. Elaine says:

    That part about showing emotional health and maturity… there was an installation of a statue on the grounds of the hospital where I worked. The statue was in full view of public sidewalks and roadways. I should also say that the hospital was a teaching hospital on the grounds of a university. Because the hospital brought innumerable people into this city, I am not sure how to read the defacement of the statue. The statue is a nude man in the process of running/pushing through an invisible barrier. It embodies Freedom. Did I mention that it is a nude? Well it took less than 72 hours for the statue’s genitals to first be painted a bright color associated with the university and then amputated by persons unknown. The statue was repaired and the removal of the repaired part was again briskly effected. What does that say about emotional health and maturity? I don’t know. But I do know it was foolhardly to place that statue in a nexus of public and collegiate pathways and think it would be unharmed.

    1. Yeah. Someone obviously didn’t think that one through. Part of the installation should be public interaction. Will people climb on it? Decorate it? The little statue in the picture is often covered in origami cranes. And there’s a group statue in the Fremont neighborhood called Waiting for the Interurban that you can actually make reservations to decorate. It’s fun to see how creative people can be. On the other hand, there was a statue of a Jacksonville Jaguar in front of their football stadium that was roaring just enough for a little kid to get his head stuck in its mouth. They had to fill his jaws with concrete after that.

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